Michigan native Pete Mathews remembers cold winters.
He worked for the Penn Central Railroad company and longed to see his beloved Detroit Tigers in Grapefruit League action. After retiring in 1990, he fulfilled his dream and bought a home close to Lakeland, where the Tigers play their spring training games. Each year he goes to five games, fondly remembering when his favorite player, Al Kaline, patrolled right field for The Motor City Nine.
Mathews played years of baseball along with fast and slow pitch softball in Kalamazoo, Mich. Now he manages the Schooni's Restaurant squad in Lake Placid's senior softball league.
Mathews said he enjoys being a skipper.
"Beautiful weather, and beautiful guys to play ball with," he said ahead of a recent game.
On Monday, Mathews' Schooni's Eleven fell by a score of 24-23 in heartbreaking loss to Yates Insurance. The Restauranteurs had the bases loaded with two out in the last inning, but right fielder Phil Lucas snared a drive Bill DeStefano to end the game.
For Schooni's, Mike Kratt, Kyle Saunders (two doubles), and Ron Hanisch had four hits each. Norm Grubbs slugged three doubles.
Leading Yates were Darrel Richards (double), Richard Rucker (double), and Bill Gallagher (double, triple) with four hits apiece.
Central Security defeated Seminole Tire 18-10. Pacing The Securitymen were Larry Oser and Woody Hoffman with four hits each. The Central defense turned two double plays in the first two innings, and pitcher J.C. Brown made the play of the game by spearing a smash ticketed for center field.
For The 'Noles, left fielder Ray Wilson made a couple of sparkling catches on defense.
In Wednesday's action, Seminole Tire (1-5) notched its first win of the season's second half by defeating Schooni's (1-5) 23-19. The 'Noles defense saw shortstop Bob Roth gun down two runners at the plate, while Ed Engler made two over-the-shoulder catches to thwart Schooni rallies.
Roth (triple), Stanley (double), and Chet Johnson notched five hits each. Engler (double, two triples), Tom Ashley (double), and Ray Wilson (double) chipped in with four apiece.
For Schooni's, the Four Hit Club included Elston Hedges (two doubles, two home runs), DeStefano, Kyle Saunders (two doubles), Grubbs, and Ron Hanisch.
In a battle for first place, Yates (6-0) stayed undefeated when Joe Alviano blasted a two out, walk-off single to plate the winning run in a 16-15 triumph over Central Security (4-2). Yates fell behind 11-4 before rallying in the late innings to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Bill Gallagher (triple, home run) had four hits for Yates. Both Howard Carney and Darrel Richards logged a single, double, and triple.
For The Securitymen, Dick Cook slugged three doubles, and a quintet of hitters recorded three hits each.
For further league information, visit www.lpsoftball.com.
Highlands County softball still hot
Meanwhile, the Highlands County senior softball league will pay tribute to Father Time this season.
Harry Bell, Gallo Gonzalez and John Kloet will all turn 80 this year. The trio also play in both the 60 and 70-year-old leagues. The 70s team also boasts Jim Quartier, 81; Jack Definney 81,; and Diz Davis, 81. Doran Quigg is 83,Jack Grasso is 85 and the grand daddy of them all Cal Bready, is 86.
Bready was signed by Philadelphia in 1948 to a minor league contract for $200. He was paid in four installments of $50. His career was cut short by the Korean War.
The results of the 70s team on Tuesday saw VFW 4300 edge KFC 4-3 in a very close contested game with outstanding defense. VFW's Gary Tankersley, Gene Phillips, and Curt Brown led the offense with three timely hits. Don Cunningham had two hits and Gene Phillips notched the game-winning hit. KFCs hot hitting saw Norm Grubbs record three hits, including a double and a home run. Ron Lewis and Don Lariviere finished with three hits each.
The Silent Salesmen out-slugged Buttonwood Bay 20-19. J.C. Brown and Kyle Saunders led the Salesmen, with both men recording four hits each. Don Goodman had hits, including a double. Dick Schlitz and Harry Bell chipped in with two key hits each. Ken Philppula was the winning pitcher.
Buttonwood had Tom Morrissette smash five hits, Earl Richardson and John Degnen had four hits and while seven batters had extra base hits.
In Tuesday's final game, Royal Palm upended Highlands Ridge by a score of 13-9. Royal Palm's Dick Osterich had four hits, while Gonzalex belted two triples.
Victory Rodriquez, Bob Flodine, and Early Evans had three hits each for Royal Palm. Bready and A.C. Brown had three hits each whil Bob Roth and Don Goodman added three hits for Highlands Ridge in a losing effort.
Thursday's highlights saw the league leading KFC drub Buttonwood Bay 19-6. KFC was again
led by Grubbs, who had five hits, including a home run. Ron Lewis had four hits (home run an triple), Don Lariviere had three (1 triple), while John Schmidt and Joe Torres added three more apiece.
Buttonwood Bay was led by Tom Morrisette and the Richardson brothers, Fred and Earl. John Degnen also chipped in with three hits. VFW 4300 edged Royal Palm 14-10. Gary Tankersley had four hits with a double, Gene Phillips had three hits with one home run, and Don Cunningham and Kloet had three hits each.
Royal Palm's Rich Godfrey and Jerry Murphy added hits each. Five players had two hits.
Thursday's final game had the Silent Salesmen edge Highlands Ridge 12-11. The Salesmen were led by Schlitz and J.C. Brown, who each recorded three hits. Schlitz had a triple while Saunders smashed four hits hits led the offensive attack.
Harry Bell, Fred Kreig, and Dale Demare also contributed to the win with great defense. Philppula was the winning pitcher on the mound. Highlands Ridge's Bob Roth, Ross Anderson, Don Goodman and Bob Richards had three hits each.
On Monday, the 60s league had the Alan Jay Red Sox play 11 innings before edging the Cubs 13-7.
Alan Jay had Wayne McNett, Tom McNally, Steve Smutnik and Les Osbeck lead the way for the offense. The Cubs had Bill Scrase, Jim Kahn and Earl Richardson as their the batting stars. The other game saw Reflections jump all over the Fairmount Services with a dominant 20-13 win. Leading the way for Reflections was David Reed, Ron Rieches, and Bill Kelsey. Fairmount Services John Smutnik
launched two home runs, while Phil Grimpe and Brian Pluta added three hits each.
On Wednesday, the VFW 4300 White Sox upset Reflections 13-12. Don Dobbert had four hits while McNally added three more. Roy Oke and Jesse Hathaway smashed two hits, each recording a double. Kloet was the winning pitcher and had two hits. Reflections had Ron Rieches record four hits, while David Reed and Larry Kelly added three more.
The other diamond saw the Alan Jay Red Sox hand Fairmount Services its sixth straight loss with a 10-5 defeat. Gary Steeves led Alan Jan with a home run, while Steve Blazing and Bill Scrase added two hits apiece.
Heading into the last week of the regular season, Alan Jay and Refelections are tied for first with identical 9-7 records.